Professor’s arguments sound like role for public relations to me.

A presentation tonight at sees Ralph Stacey, Professor of Management and Director of the Complexity and Management Centre at the University of Hertfordshire, argue that executives should not underestimate the power of communication and relationships within an organisation.

That certainly sounds relevant to public relations, but the lecture – The Myth of the Organisational Machine – is taking place in the University’s Centre for Applied Social and Psychological Development (CASPD).

The professor believes we need to understand the complexity of relationships between people in organisations rather than apply a mechanistic approach to management.  He says organisations need to recognise that “the unexpected can happen and people in organisations can react in messy ways that rely on personal miscommunication and unconscious processes.”

That is a call for crisis management based on understanding human communications and interactions.  This sounds a fascinating topic, and I’m not familiar with Professor Stacey’s work.  However his text on the challenge of complexity sounds very interesting and I’ll check this out further. 

There is a lot of thinking going on outside the academic PR world that is highly relevant to the profession – and it seems a shame that management and others working in areas where we operate seem unaware of the role of PR in organisations.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

3 thoughts on “Professor’s arguments sound like role for public relations to me.”

  1. To be honest Heather it sounds ever so slightly like academic twaddle, which is no substitute for real life experience. I wonder what the Professor has by way of real world experience?

  2. My perspective is that we need to know what to do when we experience real life and simply going on what you’ve learned from other people, what you’ve done previously or “common sense” isn’t always the best approach.

    A lot of current approaches in PR and management come from seeing organisations as systems that can be controlled, hence all the focus on planning, setting objectives, etc. In PR terms, that’s led us to crisis management approaches which are all about attempting to control the situation, get your message out early etc. That view proposes one way to respond. That is, we do a, then b and c will result.

    Cutting through the academic bs around what the Prof is saying, I felt there was some interesting thoughts about moving away from this command and control (as is also advocated by many online thinkers) and recognising the importance of complexity and relationships. An awful lot of effort is spent by organisations and PRs that don’t get the results because it is based on “real life experience” rather than any thought or insight. For example, in internal communications where organisations keep talking at people and expecting them to do as their told.

    The thinking probably isn’t rocket science in itself, but interesting to see it coming out of management thinkers who write the books that are read by the CEOs on their MBA courses etc. So if PR can realise this thinking is going on and how it is absorbed by those in management roles, we can ensure that we are ahead of the curve and show how PR is involved in relationship building etc.

    Many practitioners don’t seem to get that either relying on experience to keep on doing the same things regardless of the results – eg sending out poor press releases.

    Also for me, a lot of PR academic thought seems to be isolated from what is being discussed in management when we should be learning and developing our understanding from all sorts of directions.

    Not knocking real life experience, but there is a role for analysis and contemplation too. Shame they have to use such ridiculously complicated language to say things that could be conveyed more readily – as per folk like Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell et al.

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